“We’re all travelling heavy with illusions.” ~ Sherman Alexie, from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
I don’t know why I never tried before this to track down the poem from which my header arises, but here it is, and I find it quite apt for a post-holiday post:
Indians love fireworks.
We make millions selling illegal ones to white folks.
Well, not millions for each of us, but you know what I mean.
A working definition of tolerance: When Indians make money from white
folks celebrating their independence.
Ever have a bottle rocket fight? I’ve got a burn scar on my left thumb.
Reservation rumor: an M-80 firecracker was as powerful as a 1/4 stick
of dynamite. Wasn’t true, but we pretended it was true when we
threw them into ant piles.
White eggs come from white chickens; brown eggs come from
Have you ever hidden an egg in your home for the Easter hunt, and
then been unable to find it for days or even weeks afterward?
A few years ago, we hid an ostrich egg (an ostrich egg!) in our living
room and never found it. It still hasn’t gone bad enough to find it
by smell. Every so often, I look for it.
When I was a child, I cracked open a bright green painted egg
and discovered a chicken fetus inside.
My high school girlfriend raised chickens. “About every fifty eggs or so,”
she said, “you drop a fetus into the frying pan.”
Sunnyside up, with lots of Tabasco, and four triangles of buttered toast.
White Jesus comes from white people; brown Jesus comes from
Pine trees, pine trees, pine trees.
My family didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was seven years old.
We lived in an epic, and gorgeous, pine forest.
Therefore, pine tree = poverty.
Therefore, poverty = epic and gorgeous.
There is some sort of bad logic in this, but I don’t remember the name for it.
I am asked this question at least a dozen times every year: “Do Indians
That’s like asking: “Do Jewish people celebrate Oktoberfest?”
The answer is: “Yes, Indians celebrate Thanksgiving.”
I just emailed a Jewish friend to ask about her feelings on Oktoberfest,
and she wrote, “Never thought about it. No way I’d buy
a BMW, though.”
The best thing about humans: Our ability to forgive. The second
best thing: Grudges.
About 70% white meat and 30% dark, with canned cranberry sauce. And
no, I don’t care how good your homemade cranberry sauce is.
On a New Year’s Eve when I was five or six, my mother, drunk
for the very last time, punched an older Indian woman in the face.
My mother hates it when I write about this.
Once a friend told me, “I heard your mother singing in church today. It
sounded like the river at night.” A nine-year-old Indian boy said
that about my mother! Where is that Indian boy? Did the poet
in him survive?
I am vaguely Catholic, so for the rest of this poem I will fast.
My wife, two sons, and I celebrate the New Year by drinking root beer
floats. I hereby establish the root beer float as the official Native
American New Year’s Eve drink. It should be the only drink
allowed for Indians on New Year’s.
Ain’t gonna happen.
I want to combine Catholic Lent and the Jewish Day of Atonement,
and begin each year with six weeks of apologies.
Dear Ants that I slaughtered with M-80 fireworks, I am sorry for my rage.
Dear Chickens-to-Be that I dropped into frying pans, I am sorry for my hunger.
Dear Family Outhouse, I am sorry that I failed to recognize your primitive beauty.
Dear Enemies, real and imagined, I am sorry for my grudges.
Dear Mother, For having written so many poems and stories about you,
I am sorry.
Dear Universe, I am sorry for all the times that I believed myself to be
the sun around which all of these planets whirl.